The Witch Fire began burning in San Diego County, California in the late morning on Sunday, October 21st, 2007. The blaze started in the town of Ramona, and quickly spread due to strong Santa Ana winds and humidity levels under 10%. Other fires also erupted in San Diego County as well as neaby Los Angeles and Orange Counties around the same time.
Firefighters were ready, but were limited in being able to fight a fire under those conditions. The strong winds made air support impossible. As of October 25th, 2007 the Witch Fire had burned nearly 200,000 acres and claimed hundreds of homes. Several hundred thousand residents had to leave their homes under mandatory evacuations. A similar fire had swept San Diego County in 2003, the Cedar Fire, burning over 280,000 acres. The Witch Fire burned generally north of the area the Cedar Fire had claimed four years earlier, burning areas that had escaped the fires of 2003.
It should be noted that unlike the horrible conditions that existed under the evacuations from Hurricane Katrina, evacuees in southern California had no similar problems. Evacuation centers were set up and volunteer provisions were so plentiful that help actually had to be turned away. Multiple churches became immediately involved in opening their facilities to the displaced and organizing immediate aid, including one prominent church that became an official evacuation center as well as making arrangement for the parking of up to 100 RVs. While churches take a prominent front line role in times of crisis, their response and the role they play are often underreported or ignored by national media.